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The Freedom Riders, The U.S. Army, And Me

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Fifty years ago this past weekend, the Freedom Riders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which included student leaders Diane Nash and John Lewis, decided — along with many other similarly committed young people — that it was time to integrate bus stations in the Southern United States that were hubs of racist segregation.

Monday night, PBS broadcast a historical documentary that chronicled the strategy and decision-making by the leadership of the civil rights movement for racial equality that strategically applied the practices of Mohatma Gandhi’s nonviolent civil disobedience, to the arduous effort to desegregate and eliminate the “Jim Crow” practices of the Southern United States. As the documentary reflected, the young people who chose to ride the buses of freedom that fateful month of May 1961 changed America forever.

SNCC’s decision’s was predicated upon the radical notion that it was time to test the authority of a 1961 Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia, that overturned segregation of bus stations, their restaurants and restrooms, which had become glaring Jim Crow symbols of racial segregation throughout the South.

The first bus of Freedom Riders that arrived in Anniston, Alabama on May 14, –Mother’s Day that year — was immediately set upon by an organized assailants wielding chains and pipes, and having driven the occupants to the back of the bus, in a split moment of time, fire bombed the bus, burning most of the exterior, exposing its naked and jagged frame.

“Meanwhile, the Trailways bus arrived in Anniston, Alabama where the driver would not continue until the group sat segregated,” SNCC’s historical records show. “A violent group boarded the bus and beat the African-Americans sitting in the front, causing several injuries until the group was forced to the back of the bus. A mob carrying iron pipes greeted them on arrival in Birmingham, Alabama. Many were battered, knocked unconscious and hospitalized. The group gathered the next day and prepared to head on to Montgomery, but no bus would take them. A mob gathered as they waited in the white waiting room, and finally the group decided to fly back to New Orleans, ending the first ride.”

Although I was only six-years-old when the Anniston bus burning occurred, by the time I was a teenager, I had come to understand its historical importance as a weigh station on America’s long journey toward achieving racial equality and dignity.

Anniston had become notorious for its violent acts of brazen racism and was an embarrassment on a world stage for the Kennedy Administration, who was planning the young president’s first international trip to meet with European heads of state. Indeed, Anniston’s bus burning and vicious attack on unarmed Freedom Riders would bear the heavy burden of ugly racism for many decades to come.

 


The card read something like, “You are not welcome in this establishment.” Of course, it did not say, “You are not welcome in this establishment because you are black,” or because I was associating with a black person, but we knew and understood its ugly message instantly.



 

Not only would Anniston’s bus burning serve as a barometric measure in my life for one of the ugliest incidents of racism in American history, but it would also become my unexpected home on two different occasions during my 15-year Army career.

The first time I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1974, I was sent to Ft. McClellan, Alabama for the Women’s Army Corps boot camp (I also had my first kiss there with a woman in the laundry room of Charlie Company, 2nd WAC Battalion.) I returned to Anniston in 1986 as a U.S. Army Second Lieutenant to attend officer’s basic course and served four more years at Ft. McClellan, before posting to Hawaii, where I served as a company commander.

During this assignment in Alabama, I bought a house in Anniston which exposed me to homegrown racial prejudice. The most memorably painful incident occurred during a lunch I was sharing with an Army colleague, an African-American woman, who was also a Second Lieutenant. While eating, a white man walked past us and laid a card on the table’s edge and immediately left the restaurant’s premises after his banal act. The card read something like, “You are not welcome in this establishment.”

Of course, it did not say, “You are not welcome in this establishment because you are black,” or because I was associating with a black person, but we knew and understood its ugly message instantly. We quickly left the restaurant and turned the card into Ft. McCllellan’s office of civil rights, hoping they would look into the incident and perhaps put it “off-limits” to base personnel.

Nothing came of our complaint and because our daily lives were otherwise consumed with training and graduating, we moved on. But that moment made me aware that intolerance was alive and well in Anniston, even though the Army and the city talked a good game about acceptance and respect for others. It would not be my last experience of feeling the sting of racism in Anniston and in other American locales, which not only punishes and humiliates African-Americans, but calls on White people to confront its ugly specter or become ashamed because of our complicity with the racists.

Anniston’s notorious history came into stark relief when I was assigned to serve as an escort officer for Brigadier General Sherian Cadoria, the first African-American female general in the military, who was making a return visit to Ft. McClellan in February 1986 in honor of Black History month. A beautifully striking woman, Sherian Cadoria was tough as nails, disciplined, precise, she would prove to be a generous mentor to me through the remainder of my career.

Cadoria, a deeply religious person, grew up as a child of tenant farmers and by the age of ten years, was picking at least 200 pounds of cotton daily. Her mother raised her to be proud, despite whatever humiliations she would sustain as a young African-American girl growing up in Louisiana. Her rise to the rank of General is a classic Horatio Alger American story.

I was thrilled with this assignment and thoroughly prepared for her arrival. This would be at least her fourth return to Ft. McClellan for Brig. Gen. Cadoria and her first as a general staff officer. She had entered the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) officer basic course in 1960, at Ft. McClellan, just months before the violent disruption of the Freedom Riders arrival at the local bus station. She returned for perhaps one of her most challenging assignments to Ft. McClellan in the 1970s when she became its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) officer, with specific responsibilities to interact with the Anniston community (during her assignments at Ft. McClellan she never lived “locally”–an impossibility she told me that apparently all black officers and soldiers adhered to as well.)

For Cadoria, this assignment must have been a frightening, yet, an empowering one. She later told me that the Army calculated to send her to Ft. McClellan, because of its rancidly racist past. They wanted Cadoria and the powerful symbol of who she was, in Anniston to work on bringing the local community in line with the Army’s goal to advance racial equality in the ranks.

I still think sending Cadoria to Anniston in the 1970s was a rather radical idea, especially for the U.S. Army. They could have not sent anyone more effective. She later returned to Ft. McClellan, to command a basic training battalion, before going onto commanding a CID brigade level command in Atlanta that led to her selection to brigadier general.

Cadoria, who retired from the Army in 1990, (the same year I decided to leave as well,) and I remained in contact over the next four years after I left Ft. McClellan for command in Hawaii. In a personally inscribed note to me on her official photo (above), after her 1986 visit to Anniston, she wrote “always remember our soldiers…god bless you.”

The Freedom Riders destroyed the yoke of Jim Crow in Anniston and beyond, and Sherian Cadoria, a tenant farmer’s daughter, would become a major symbol for the Army as it strove to confront racism in Anniston, through her presence at Ft. McClellan. I say god bless you General Cadoria and other brave souls like you, who followed the Freedom Riders by doing the difficult work of advancing racial justice.

The journey goes on, the work continues.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

Read Tanya Domi’s most-recent previous article at The New Civil Rights Movement, “Facing the 21st Century: A Brave New World of Challenge, Change and Caution.”

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News

Santos Campaign Can No Longer Raise or Spend Money After Treasurer Officially Calls It Quits: NYT

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Enmeshed in a web of deceit and possibly under federal criminal investigation, U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is now apparently unable to lawfully spend money or accept donations via his political campaign, which reportedly now may also be in violation of FEC rules.

On Tuesday the embattled freshman Republican announced he was temporarily stepping down from his committee assignments, reportedly after a conversation with Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Before the end of the day his campaign treasurer filed official paperwork notifying the Federal Election Commission she had resigned.

“Nancy Marks’s resignation effectively leaves the Santos campaign unable to raise or spend money and in seeming violation of federal rules,” The New York Times reports, calling her his “longtime campaign treasurer and trusted aide.”

“Mr. Santos’s financial operations, which are the subject of several complaints filed with the F.E.C. and are being investigated by local, state and federal law enforcement,” The Times adds. “It also leaves the Santos campaign in disarray, effectively rendering it unable to raise or spend money and placing it in seeming violation of F.E.C. rules.”

READ MORE: Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court

In fact, FEC rules state: “If a committee’s treasurer is absent, the committee cannot make expenditures or accept contributions unless it has designated an assistant treasurer or designated agent on the committee’s Statement of Organization.”

The resignation comes after last week’s stunning report revealing that Santos, or his campaign, amended FEC filings to indicate the $700,000 he had claimed to have personally loaned his campaign had not actually come from his personal funds.

Unlike political candidates, campaign treasurers are held to an actual standard of truth, and can be personally – and legally – liable if they report false information.

FEC rules also state, “the treasurer can be named and found liable in his or her personal capacity if he or she knowingly and willfully violates the Act, recklessly fails to fulfill duties imposed by the law, or intentionally deprives himself or herself of the operative facts giving rise to the violation.”

READ MORE: Stefanik Was Once ‘Laser Focused on Electing Santos’ – Now She Blames Voters for Electing Him as She Backs Away

Santos may find it difficult to hire a new treasurer: “Even when an enforcement action alleges violations that occurred during the term of a previous treasurer, the Commission usually names the current treasurer as a respondent in the action.”

The Times adds, “The lack of clarity over who, if anyone, is operating as Mr. Santos’s treasurer has already caused confusion. On Tuesday, a joint fund-raising committee associated with Mr. Santos filed paperwork to end its operations. Ms. Marks’s signature was on the paperwork, even though she had resigned as the committee’s treasurer the week before.”

Marks’ resignation also comes after someone affiliated with the Santos campaign falsely listed a well-known Republican treasurer on the official FEC forms as the treasurer for his campaign. As one expert put it, that’s a “big no-no,” and “completely illegal.”

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COMMENTARY

Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court

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The highly controversial and highly unpopular U.S. Supreme Court isn’t just facing a historic loss of confidence, it’s now facing yet another ethics scandal that is likely to lower even further public opinion of the far-right institution that in under two decades has seen its approval rating slashed.

Although it will not hear arguments, the issue before the Supreme Court and the American people’s view of it, is, should a Justice’s spouse – in this case the spouse of Chief Justice John Roberts – be able to make millions of dollars recruiting attorneys who are placed into top law firms that argue cases before it?

That’s the latest allegation, and already a spokesperson for the Court has issued a statement denying any ethical violations.

The New York Times reports that “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice. Seeking an inquiry, the ex-colleague has provided records to the Justice Department and Congress indicating Mrs. Roberts has been paid millions of dollars in commissions for placing lawyers at firms — some of which have business before the Supreme Court, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.”

Jane Sullivan Roberts left a law firm where she was a partner after her spouse was confirmed as Chief Justice.

READ MORE: Failed Leak Probe Will ‘Add to Public Distrust’ and ‘Accelerate Partisan Rancor’ Surrounding Supreme Court: Analyst

“Mrs. Roberts, according to a 2015 deposition,” The Times reports, “said that a significant portion of her practice was devoted to helping senior government lawyers land jobs at law firms and that the candidates’ names were almost never disclosed.”

Documents in that case “list six-figure fees credited to Mrs. Roberts for placing partners at law firms — including $690,000 in 2012 for one such match. The documents do not name clients, but Mr. Price recalled her recruitment of one prominent candidate, Ken Salazar, then interior secretary under President Barack Obama, to WilmerHale, a global firm that boasts of arguing more than 125 times before the Supreme Court.”

That case involves “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts,” Kendal Price, a 66-year-old Boston lawyer, who “has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice.”

“According to the letter,” sent by Price to DOJ and Congress, which the Times reports it obtained, “Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.”

The Times cites two legal experts, one who sees no ethical concerns with the situation, and one who does.

But critics are expressing great concern over this latest ethics issue, as they have been for years.

Doug Lindner, Advocacy Director for Judiciary & Democracy for the League of Conservation Voters, pointing to the Times’ report,  remarked: “Another day, another ethics concern about another life-tenured conservative justice on the most powerful court in the world, which has no binding ethics rules.”

READ MORE: Marshal ‘Spoke With’ Supreme Court Justices, Excluded Them From Signing Sworn Affidavits in Leak Probe

Indeed, the lack of a Supreme Court code of ethics has been repeatedly condemned for years, including by some of the nation’s top critics.

On Sept. 1, 2022, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin tweeted out her opinion piece: “Ginni Thomas pressed Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory .. just another insurrectionist.”

Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor for the Atlantic, responded:

“Another reminder of how unethical is Justice Clarence Thomas, while Chief Justice Roberts turns a blind eye and continues to resist a code of ethics for a Supreme Court now distrusted by a majority of Americans. This defines the Roberts Court.”

The following month Ornstein slammed the Roberts Court once again.

“It is a stain on the Supreme Court that Chief Justice Roberts refuses to support a Judicial Code of Ethics, and stands by silently while Clarence Thomas flouts ethical standards over and over and over,” Ornstein charged.

Less than one month later he again unleashed on Roberts.

“Roberts is culpable,” he tweeted. “He has resisted over and over applying the Judicial Code of Ethics to the Supreme Court. This is Alito’s court, and it is partisan and corrupt.”

Ornstein is far from the Court’s only critic.

“If Chief Justice Roberts really wanted to address Supreme Court ethics, he would have immediately worked to implement a Code of Conduct after Clarence Thomas failed to recuse from cases involving January 6th despite having a clear conflict of interest,” the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted a year ago in May. The following month CREW published an analysis titled: “Chief Justice John Roberts is wrong: the American judicial system is facing a major ethics crisis.”

Meanwhile, in late November Politico reported that Democrats in Congress were outraged at the Roberts Court.

“Two senior Democrats in Congress are demanding that Chief Justice John Roberts detail what, if anything, the Supreme Court has done to respond to recent allegations of a leak of the outcome of a major case the high court considered several years ago,” PoliticoJosh Bernstein reported, referring to the leak of the Dobbs decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision – itself a massive ethics crisis for the Court.

READ MORE: Revealed: Four Supreme Court Justices Attended Right-Wing Gala — Further Endangering SCOTUS Credibility

“Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) are also interested in examining claims about a concerted effort by religious conservatives to woo the justices through meals and social engagements. They wrote to Roberts on Sunday, making clear that if the court won’t investigate the alleged ethical breaches, lawmakers are likely to launch their own probe.”

Whitehouse and Johnson “also criticized the high court’s response to a letter they sent Roberts in September, seeking information about the court’s reaction to reports in POLITICO and Rolling Stone about a yearslong campaign to encourage favorable decisions from the justices by bolstering their religiosity.”

Nothing has changed.

When the Roberts Court earlier this month announced its lengthy investigation did not find the draft Dobbs decision leaker but also did not include the Justices themselves, Stokes Prof. of Law at NYU Law School Melissa Murray, an MSNBC host, tweeted, “This is a Roberts Court leitmotif–The Chief loves to handle things–even big things–in-house. Ethics issues? No need to get involved, Congress. We’ll sort it out ourselves. Leak needs investigating? No need to call in an actual investigative body, the Marshal will handle it.”

Pulitzer prize winning New York Times  investigative reporter Jodi Kantor, pointing to how the Justices were not thoroughly investigated during the leak probe, in earlier this month said: “Last week the court released statements that confirmed the gap between how the justices and everyone else were treated.”

“The whole situation amplifies a major question about the court: are these nine people, making decisions that affect all of us, accountable to anyone?”

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News

‘Can Be Used Against You’: Trump Took Big Risk Pleading the Fifth 400 Times in Deposition Says Legal Expert

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A newly released video shows Donald Trump pleading the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times in a deposition, and a legal expert explained how that could be used against him in court.

The former president was finally hauled in to testify last year in the $25 million fraud lawsuit filed against the Trump Organization by New York attorney Letitia James, and he exercised his constitutional right against self-incrimination nearly 450 times — but MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann said the move carried potential risk in a civil case.

“I agree with him on the point of taking the Fifth,” Weissmann said. “It’s important to remember everyone has a right to the Fifth if a truthful answer would tend to incriminate you. In a civil case, it can be used against you, unlike in a criminal case.”

“One other thing I would disagree is when he is saying there’s this witch hunt, he left out jurors,” Weissmann added. “The Trump Organizations went to trial, they had their day in court. They could present all of their evidence, [and] 12 jurors, that’s everyday citizens, found beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a multi-year tax conspiracy that his organizations were involved in, and there was evidence he knew about it as would make sense. That’s one more reason for him to be asserting the Fifth Amendment.”

Watch video below or at this link.

Image via Shutterstock

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